A MASSIVE legal case could be launched against the council if it refuses to pay back millions of pounds taken from motorists on six incorrectly-marked box junctions.

On Tuesday Ealing Council announced it would be removing the box markings on the six junctions, four in Southall, and one each in Ealing and Hanwell, after guidance from the Department for Transport (DfT) was given to officers last Thursday saying the markings should not stretch across the whole road at T-junctions.

Since January dozens of tickets given to people on two of the boxes in South Road, Southall, have been overturned by parking adjudicators on the grounds that the markings were wrong.

Last Wednesday one adjudicator awarded £750 costs against the council saying it had been “unreasonable” in continuing to fight appeals.

Now leading councillors and campaigners are calling for motorists to get their money back.

Jim Douglas, who has been leading the campaign, said: “They must now pay back the cash. By taking the junctions up they are confirming they are unlawful, but they have still been taking people’s money on them for years.

“The council must now pay the money back otherwise they will have an amount of unlawfully derived money on their accounts.”

In a statement, Councillor Phil Taylor, who is in charge of parking enforcement in the borough, said the council had been made to wait eight months by the DfT for confirmation the junctions were incorrectly marked.

He said: “Following a meeting with the DfT in June we understood that double width yellow boxes could be placed at the T-junctions, as long as there was sufficient traffic flow in the area.

“Now eight months after we originally approached them (the DfT), they appear to be suggesting this is not the case.

“It is ridiculous that it has taken the Government department which sets the rules so many months to interpret its own manual and we still have not received a definitive response. This just underlines how unclear the regulations are.”

Cllr Taylor told the Ealing Times the council would not be offering refunds to people fined before last Thursday.

Richard Bentley, the traffic signs expert for the Motorists Legal Challenge Fund, set up to challenge council’s over improper parking enforcement, said the group would be writing to the council to remind it of its responsibilities and, if it failed to pay back the money, launch a legal bid for compensation.

He said: “They ought to be able to get it right. It’s not rocket science.

“The Traffic Signs Regulations and General Descriptions is mainly pictorial and is very clear. After studying that, if you still are still not sure, then the DfT produces the very helpful Traffic Signs Manual and loads of working drawings to ensure that local authorities deploy signs and lines that are lawful.”

Councillor Bassam Mahfouz, the Labour transport spokesman, described the council’s U-turn as “highly embarrasing”.

He said: “It’s a fantastic victory for local residents. I have called on the council before to admit they were wrong on the Greenford box junction (junction Ruislip Road/Mansell Road) when they changed that, and asked them to pay back the money they had taken from people there.

“When Councillor Taylor came to power he had the chance to suspend all of these and say he would have a look at them, but instead the department carried on enforcing them.”